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message 1: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments Since I couldn't find any similar topics, I decided to open one. (I hope I choose the right folder.)

Medieval art is often very closely connected with books and literature, and this will be the place to take a trip to the past. Weather it's a manuscript or an illumnination or simply a painting we're talking about, it is always good to learn about the roots of all those things in art we like (or don't like) today.

message 2: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments An intensely illustrated florilegium of meditations and prayers drawing from the Song of Songs and Augustine’s De Trinitate, among other texts, the Rothschild Canticles is remarkable for its full-page miniatures, historiated initials, and drawings, which show the work of multiple artists.

message 3: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments I love Medieval art.

message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol (goodreadscomcarolann) | 1140 comments Me too. (Love the hat Ruth!)

The Morgan Library & Museum has the most beautiful and greatest of all Dutch illuminated manuscripts, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves.

message 5: by Heather (new)

Heather This is a great topic, Hex! I, too, like Medieval Art and would love to know more!

message 6: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments It all starts somewhere. I guess the nuns got yours truly started. I went from Medieval to Pop, Psychedelic, to Art Noveau and my taste just keeps growing. When I was Hex's age I was steeped in medieval art, drama, you name it. There's the Society for Creative Anachronism for like minded people!

I like medieval cloister gardens. It's sort of where my backyard garden started.

EVERYONE should spend at least a day at the CLOISTERS!!!

message 7: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments If you want to do a medieval play, look here:

message 8: by Heather (new)

Heather Monica wrote: "EVERYONE should spend at least a day at the CLOISTERS!!!"

I love the stained glass windows!

message 9: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments Seriously, Heather, you MUST visit the Cloisters. It has the largest collection of Medieval art in this hemisphere.

message 10: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments

St. John and Veronica dyptich (right wing)
Hans Memling (Memlinc), Netherlandish, c. 1430 – 1494
Oil on wood, 31,6 x 24,4 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington

The gold chalice with a serpent is a symbol of redemption. It is referring to the legend of St John the Evangelist who, ordered to drink a cup of poisoned wine, made the sign of blessing, and the venom was miraculously drawn from the liquid.

message 11: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments

Ancient sea legends and Medieval bestiaries claimed that the whale was as big as an island and grew bushes on its backside. It was said that mariners, mistaking the creature for land, would anchor their ships to its side, come ashore, and light fires. The beast, feeling the heat of the fires would plunge into the sea taking hapless crews and ships to their watery deaths. These whale legends became a warning against the wiles, cunning, and traps of the Devil who drags unsuspecting sinners down to Hell.
Source: Tucker, Suzetta. “ChristStory Whale Page.” ChristStory Christian Bestiary.

message 12: by Ruth (last edited Mar 02, 2011 11:59AM) (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Hex wrote: "

St. John and Veronica dyptich (right wing)
Hans Memling (Memlinc), Netherlandish, c. 1430 – 1494
Oil on wood, 31,6 x 24,4 cm, National..."

Absolutely gorgeous. But I'd call it Northern Renaissance rather than Medieval. Medieval artists didn't use that kind of representation of depth. That said, I love, love, love the image.

message 13: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments Thank you, Ruth, for clearing that out. (Maybe some things will find their way in here that are close to Medieval- either in time or "in ideas". I hope that's ok.)

message 14: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) What about some nice Cimabue or Sargis Pitsak?

message 15: by Heather (new)

Heather oooh! Good choices, John!

message 16: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments For John

First page of the Gospel of Mark in Armenian, by Sargis Pitsak, 14th century.

message 17: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments Workshop of Robert Campin (South Netherlandish (modern Belgium), Tournai (ca. 1375–1444))

Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece)

And for interpretations and some of the sybology visit:

message 18: by Ruth (last edited Mar 05, 2011 09:03AM) (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Did you find the Merode Altarpiece someplace that listed it as Medieval Art, Hex? That's interesting. I've never seen it discussed except as Northern Renaissance. The depictions of perspective and form we see in the Merode are not found in Medieval Art.

That said, the Merode is a magnificent piece. You can tell it's Northern and not Italian Renaissance by the slender bodies, the attention to all the many details, the angles formed by the draperies.

message 19: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments No, I didn't, but I chose to post it here anyway for that very reason. It's shows those foundations of perspective, but still uses some of Medieval forms of expression.

I also find it magnificent. You rarely find religious depictions with such an intimate atmosphere, it almost looks as sacral themed piece.

message 20: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments (I'm not sure sacral is the right word. English is not my first language. Sorry. :))

message 21: by Heather (new)

Heather I am not as familiar with the differences between Medieval and Northern Renaissance, but I think that triptych is wonderful! Before I looked at the second site that you posted, I was fascinated by the symbolism and the detail! In fact, now that I think of it, the symbolism that I actually remember and recognized did come from my studies of the Renaissance period. But, that is not to say that the Medieval style does not utilize the same or similar symbolism. Anyone? Ruth?

message 22: by John (last edited Mar 05, 2011 12:17PM) (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) Well, it really doesn't. Medieval symbolism is mostly religious, while Renaissance symbolism started to become more secular. In the North, there was a growing concern with decay and death, as in all of the still lives you see with flies circling a piece of rotting meat on a banquet table, which seemed to be a common leitmotif. It was also one of the first times where you saw the emergence of conspicuous consumption in art, since capitalism as we know it was basically being born contemporaneously in Northern Europe. Ruth can tell you more, but that's a quick-and-dirty summary of what I know.

message 23: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments Secular! Thank you. :)

message 24: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) Hex, I just saw the Pitsak that you posted earlier. Isn't it wonderful? Thanks for digging it up, I appreciate it.

message 25: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments Hex, et al, that Robert Campin triptych is arguably the most famous painting in the Cloisters collection! The cityscape outside Joseph's window is world renowned. Thank you for the article.

message 26: by Heather (new)

Heather John wrote: "Well, it really doesn't. Medieval symbolism is mostly religious, while Renaissance symbolism started to become more secular. In the North, there was a growing concern with decay and death, as in ..."

Thank you, John, for the synopsis of the differences between Medieval and Renaissance. I know a bit of the religious symbolism so I guess I do know more about Medieval than I thought. I do recognize now when you say there is a 'growing concern with decay and death',that there is.

message 27: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) I'm sort of waiting for Ruth to get here, I'm eager to see an answer more developed than my own.

message 28: by Ruth (last edited Mar 05, 2011 06:00PM) (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments The Medieval Period is usually divided into the Early Medieval, the Romanesque and the Gothic. Bear in mind that paintings in oil on canvas did not exist at that time. When we’re looking at Medieval Art we’re likely to be looking at architecture, sculpture and manuscript illumination.

Medieval art is mostly pretty flat. There is no use of linear perspective as developed by Brunelleschi. If there is any attempt at perspective, it's pretty primitive.

Often realistic scale is ignored. People may be as tall as buildings, for example. Sometimes relative size is used to rank things in importance. Sometimes things that are farther away will be shown higher on the page, but will not be reduced in size.

Objects and figures are not modeled to show three dimensional form. No chiaroscuro.

Bodies often appear segmented and those segments are often outlined in black. Anatomy sometimes is pretty weird. The drapery on the body does not reflect the shape of the body beneath. Bodies are often out of proportion.

All this is very apparent in Early Medieval art, carries over into the Romanesque
with a little more realism as we know it,

[image error]

and begins to move into more realistic methods of presentation as we enter the Gothic

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which gradually becomes Renaissance art. All this happened sooner in the South of Europe than it did in the North, which is why both styles can exist at once.

message 29: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) Oh, and with pictures.

I knew about most of the stylistic differences, too. I thought Heather was asking more about the change in symbolism, but now that I go back and look, she didn't say. What I said earlier was a little off-the-cuff, Ruth. But, just for my own sake, it is pretty much the case?

message 30: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments Beautiful post, Ruth. The teacher in you is coming out naturally. Much appreciated.

message 31: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments John wrote: "Oh, and with pictures.

I knew about most of the stylistic differences, too. I thought Heather was asking more about the change in symbolism, but now that I go back and look, she didn't say. What..."

You're right about the symbolism, John. In the Medieval it was pretty much restricted to the religious, in the Renaissance it branched out to include other stuff.

Which is another of the differences between Northern European Renaissance and Southern European (mostly Italian) Renaissance. In the North there was much more emphasis on the symbols of secular life, all those pots and instruments and globes and such, all the knicknacks that we see in lots of Northern portraits are symbols pertaining to the person portrayed.

message 32: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Monica wrote: "Beautiful post, Ruth. The teacher in you is coming out naturally. Much appreciated."

Heehee. My kids still laugh, "Look out, you've pushed her teacher button again!"

message 33: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments It's easy to get steeped in so much different art it becomes a jumble. Nice overview/review.

message 34: by Heather (new)

Heather That was beautiful, Ruth! I would have liked to be in your class! You demonstrated wonderfully the points you were making and made it so easy to understand, what a teacher! Thank you!

message 35: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) Ruth, here's a question I've always thought about, and always wanted to ask someone who was intimately familiar with art history: why was Medieval art so flat (lacking perspective), especially when Greek and Roman mosaics and other work clearly showed well-developed use of perspective and depth? Surely the knowledge to do this wasn't "lost" (like the Aristotelian corpus)? Did they know about it and just choose not to use it?

message 36: by Heather (new)

Heather Good question, John. I think I've wondered that not too long ago. I seem to remember getting an answer, but, rats! I don't know what it was.

message 37: by C.nick (last edited Mar 05, 2011 09:36PM) (new)

C.nick (cnick) | 6 comments Alright I'll try to answer this to the best of my ability, recalling from my years of ap highschool history and art history.

The fist account of linear perspective was in the Renaissance by Masaccio (correct me if I am wrong), but you can see a trend torwards linear perspective in the later work of the middle ages.


For example "The Battle of San Romano" by Paolo Uccello

After the fall of the western Roman empire, western Europe was thrown into poverty this could be seen as the start of what lead to the dark ages. The ban on religeous images in the Byzantine empire and when the ban was lifted the strict regulations on creating images helped the flat issue as well. But really even though the medieval people upheld reason, they were church centred, when the Renaissance came along people were human centred and studied what the Greeks and Romans knew. Instead of thinking that God put you in your social place for a reason and you must stay there, they prided themselves in knowledge and made inovations in science and art. So I think the reason for the flatness was ideology.

message 38: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Here’s where I come in with the disclaimer. Although I did teach Art History for quite a few years, I don’t have a degree in that field. My MFA (which is the terminal degree for Studio Art) is in Painting. Of course I had to take quite a bit of Art History on the way to my degree, but I also had to teach a lot more of it to myself in order to teach the course I taught. One of the side benefits of teaching is how much you learn yourself, but I don’t have the depth of background of a bona fide art historian. I keep expecting one to pop out of the wings here and expose my weak spots.

message 39: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Why did things get so flat? It helps if we view changes in art not as a progression towards a perfect representation, but as changes that reflect the needs of the society making the art.

Where we first see this flatness turn up is in the Late Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was getting pretty shaky then, and their approach to art changed. They called out the troops ,so to speak, and began to emphasize power, authority, hierachry, rituals and symbolic meaning over naturalism.

Naturalism often doesn’t represent things clearly for teaching purposes. People get in the way of others, perspective places important things in a tiny size way in the background. Leaders are often indistinguishable from the hoi polloi. Late Roman art began to display things almost diagrammatically so that their meaning was absolutely clear.

Here’s a panel from the Arch of Constantine. There are no beautifully articulated bodies here, no individuals. The heads in the back are the same size as the heads in the front and indeed, don’t seem to be attached to bodies themselves at all. These figures are symbols whose function is to represent a crowd.

[image error]

Early Christian art adopted these ideas because ECA was primarily didactic. Christians, few of whom could read, needed to be able to “read” wall paintings and sculpture which told the story of Christianity. You might also bear in mind that early Christian paintings were often done by unskilled artists working under less than ideal conditions, like being in the catacombs.

This didacticism is a recurring theme throughout Medieval Art. The Church was the main patron of the arts, and it enlisted the power of art to spread the word of the Church—it’s power, rituals, laws, etc., in much the same way as the leaders of the Late Roman Emperor.

A favorite theme for the portal over a cathedral was the Last Judgment. Here’s one of my favorites, from the Romanesque period. If you were an illiterate peasant and this is what you saw as you passed into the house of god, you’d be pretty convinced of what was going to happen to you if you were weighed and found wanting.

[image error]

message 40: by John (last edited Mar 05, 2011 10:22PM) (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) So, the sociological function of pre-Renaissance art was didactic, and that as time went on, people started to articulate theories of genius as a kind of spontaneous overflow of private emotion (to paraphrase Wordsworth). It wasn't so much an ideological choice on the part of the artist, since art functioned just almost solely to communicate religious-moral themes, but that linear perspective was re-introduced because people started to see the purpose of art differently (as pure subjectivity and expressivity)?

I'd guess the way art and the artist was perceived probably had a lot to do with the growing level of average education attained by the people taking in the art. They no longer needed simple, didactic lessons anymore, since they could now interact with art on a more sophisticated level (like interpreting symbols, allegory, etc).

message 41: by Ruth (last edited Mar 05, 2011 10:47PM) (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Linear perspective as we think of it today, was a product of Brunelleschi, who's considered an Early Renaissance artist rather than a Medieval one. Ucello, was just a little younger than Brunelleschi, so we can probably consider that he studied B's methods of one point perspective. It's true, however, that he was obsessed with the idea. Look down in post #37, how even the fallen lances have lined up in perfect perspective.

As I said, Italian art began to develop the look of the Renaissance long before the North, so there is overlap and confusion with styles and dates when we go back and forth between the two.

The Church continued to dominate art well into the Renaissance. However, royalty began to step in, and in the Netherlands the rise of the middle class began to affect the look and purpose of art.

It wasn't until the 19th century, though, that self-expression became one of the reasons for making art.

message 42: by C.nick (new)

C.nick (cnick) | 6 comments Ah, Filippo Brunelleschi the architecht. Masaccios's Holy Trinity is the oldest surving painting to use systematic linear perspective, so that's where the confusion came from. Thanks Ruth!

message 43: by AC (new)

AC | 151 comments Great stuff, Ruth -- thanks. Here's an interesting book that you might look at some time -- much better, imo, than the 3 stars goodreads accords it:

message 44: by Ed (new)

Ed Smiley | 871 comments Ruth wrote: "Linear perspective as we think of it today, was a product of Brunelleschi, who's considered an Early Renaissance artist rather than a Medieval one. Ucello, was just a little younger than Brunellesc..."

Interesting too that the midieval city has no vantage point where you can really compare sizes between different buildings, or see vanishing points. All is twisty and irregular and organic. With the renaissance and afterwords you start seeing these public squares, and straight roads.

message 45: by Hex (new)

Hex | 33 comments A 14th century manuscript miscellany of 38 texts, including works by Seneca, St Augustine, and Aristotle. Lavishly produced and glittering with gold, the volume is illustrated by 13 historiated initials and 3 illuminated full-page pictures by the chief artist of the Taymouth Hours.

Great "article" from the Glasgow University's official site.

message 46: by Heather (last edited Mar 14, 2011 04:18PM) (new)

Heather The Medieval Garden Enclosed
The Garden in Heraldry: From Field to Field

—R. Theo Margelony, Departmental Coordinator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

At certain times of the year in the medieval rural landscape, it would have been common to see plump sheaves of grain standing in sunny fields like so many golden tokens of agricultural wealth and prosperity, as numerous depictions—even in some of the most sumptuous manuscripts of the Middle Ages, such as the Belles Heures of the duke of Berry—attest. At harvest, the wheat was cut at the base of the stalk with a sickle and then gathered up in large armfuls and tied about the middle. The resulting bundles were left spaced and standing upright in the fields, which allowed them to dry even if it happened to rain before they could carted off for threshing.

Details of illuminations from Folio 8r and Folio 9r from the Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, 1405–1408/9.

It’s not surprising that these signs of prosperity appear frequently in the fields of heraldry. Roses may be lovely and sweet, but it was the golden produce of the fields, after all, that helped make those gentle garden bowers possible, and many families were happy to place fat sheaves of grain on their shields. The Cloisters’ collection includes two such heraldic depictions, one from a limestone window and the other from a glass roundel.

Detail of a shield from a late fifteenth-century window

Detail of a shield from a glass roundel. Unfortunately, the owners of these shields have not been identified.

In heraldry, sheaves are known as “garbs,” a word that has fallen out of use in today’s English. While garbs are most frequently tinctured Or (”gold” or “yellow” in blazon, the language of heraldry) and assumed to represent wheat, they can also signify sheaves of rye, barley, or even oats. These alternate grains may be selected in order to make a word play on a family name (such as the garbs of rye of the Riddells) or other references (such as the barley garbs in the arms of the Worshipful Company of Brewers (see image). In heraldic descriptions, the ties that appear around the middle of the garbs are assumed to be the same color as the garb, unless otherwise stated.

Some interesting garbs occur in the arms of the various Comyn families of Scotland (see image). Because of the name, it’s often speculated that the garbs are not intended to be grain at all but rather to represent bundles of cumin (Cuminum cyminum). Cumin is an annual herb of the same family as carrots, parsley, and caraway, the seeds of which often make an appearance in rye bread. However, like so many supposed origins in heraldry, this story may be no more than a quaint tale. Certainly there would have been less ambiguous ways of depicting cumin.

A golden garb was involved in the resolution of one of the most famous heraldic disputes of the Middle Ages. During an English military campaign against Scotland in 1385, Sir Robert Grosvenor, a minor knight from Cheshire, and Sir Richard le Scrope, baron of Bolton, discovered that they were using the same arms, Azure a Bend Or (see image). The High Court of Chivalry was called into session to settle the dispute. Evidence of ancient use was assembled and several notable witnesses—including John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster; Owain Glyndŵr, later last native prince of Wales; and a certain writer and royal clerk named Geoffrey Chaucer—gave evidence for the well-connected Scrope, who was variously King Richard II’s Lord High Treasurer, Keeper of the Great Seal, and Lord Chancellor. The case lasted five years and was only settled after the king himself passed judgment on the outcome. Defeated, Grosvenor finally took up Azure a Garb Or instead (see image), and although he would certainly have been miffed after such a long and valiant struggle, I can’t help feeling that he came away the victor, with a rich, golden garb in a place of honor where only a simple gold stripe had been before. Today the Grosvenors are dukes of Westminster; perhaps the garb brought them good luck.

message 47: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1942 comments Hex wrote: "A 14th century manuscript miscellany of 38 texts, including works by Seneca, St Augustine, and Aristotle. Lavishly produced and glittering with gold, the volume is illustrated by 13 historiated ini..."

I love manuscripts like this. They've influenced the visual poems I'm currently doing. Thanks for the link.

message 48: by Divvy (new)

Divvy | 70 comments Wow, I never would have guessed Medieval farm hands worked in diapers. Or are those early tight-whities? I guess whatever keeps you cool when you're working out in the sun.

message 49: by Monica (new)

Monica | 909 comments A friend once asked me an ostensibly simple question. I don't remember exactly how he put it, but i think he asked, "Why are they called ILLUMINATED manuscripts and not of ILLUSTRATED manuscripts"?

message 50: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) Etymologically, they're just about the same thing.

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